A crowd of local elected officials and politically engaged town members braved the impending snow on Wednesday, March 7, to hear a multigenerational panel of women—moderated by Lia O’Donnell—discuss gender in civic engagement. Co-sponsored by the Network, Winchester’s chapter of the League of Women Voters, and Winchester Inclusive Network, the panel sought to highlight the challenges faced by women in various stages and manifestations of civic life and to understand ways that women can become more active in the political sphere.

Former Board of Selectmen Chair Judie Muggia, who was unable to attend due to weather, provided a statement where she encouraged women not to doubt their abilities and to, “Gather your friends, who will be your forces and step into the ring! You won’t be sorry!” Town Meeting member Dr. Soumya Ganapathy talked about her transition into local politics and highlighted how the town governance model found in Winchester and throughout New England makes political engagement so accessible. State Senator Pat Jehlen encouraged would-be female candidates to overcome barriers such as lack of self confidence in selling themselves by remembering, “it’s not about you, it’s what you want to do.” Tufts student and WHS alum Isabella Ma spoke about the Me Too movement, the silence around sexual assault and harassment that has been perpetuated by gender norms and educated the audience about “call out culture.” WHS Junior Maddie Hamilton reflected on how political opinions of high school students at the beginning of high school are reflective of a student’s parents, but how she’s noticed a shift to ideas independent of parent influence as high school students grow and mature.

Members of the audience—including some thoughtful and well-spoken McCall students—asked panel members insightful questions and left attendees of the event feeling energized and inspired by the experiences and passion expressed by the panelists. The evening ended with a video  encouraging Winchester residents to vote YES on Question 2 on March 27, which seeks to rename the Board of Selectmen the Select Board.